What makes Little Slugger a realistic villain of modern society? Let's discuss!
Most of the animated classic villains have plans to take over the world and there's going to be a hero who will save the day with their goodwill and power. Most villains mostly lack empathy and are violent towards others but what if you find out about a villain who hurts people for absolutely no reason. And interestingly, people want to get beaten up by this villain for various reasons. We're talking about The Little Slugger from Paranoia Agent, one of the most iconic villains created by Satoshi Kon.
The plot of Paranoia Agent:
Have you ever felt caged in your life like a routine you cannot get out of? Have you felt that your one action could have made a difference but you chose not to bother yourself? You escaped from being bothered and ran away from responsibility. Roughly, that's what Paranoia Agent is about! It talks about people's desperate attempt to run away from the truth for temporary solutions and joys. So, the story starts with Tsukiko Sagi who's a cartoonist and currently is overpressured to create a new cartoon character that will turn out to be as popular as her previous one, Maromi. And one day, while getting back home, she gets hit by a 12-year-old boy with a golden-colored metal bat.
The news got spread like wildfire, and people named this culprit the Little Slugger. People in her office and detectives who were assigned this case thought that she was making this story up because why would a 12-year-old boy hit her with no motive? But when more reports started coming in about the 'Little Slugger', the case gets a lot of attention.
Victims of the Little Slugger :
Paranoia Agent brings you a representation of unseen modern-day problems. We get to see different cases as the story progresses. When we saw Tsukiko Sagi, she was overpressured and stressed about her work. The second victim was a school boy who had a resemblance with Little Slugger, thus he was under suspicion. He was a narcissist and under pressure to maintain his image in school. Then the third victim, a school teacher was suffering from a split personality disorder. The fourth and fifth victims love to live in illusions of a fictional world where they think of themselves as heroes.
People and their situations changed with each episode but what they had in common was suffering. They were all looking for an escape from their problems. In the anime, when a character was on the verge of a breakdown and thought that they'd had enough, they got hit by Little Slugger. The Little Slugger was the way out of suffering for people and it really worked. Tsukiko Sagi got to take a rest from work, the school kid was out of suspicion, and the teacher thought her second personality had gone away. The same thing happened with all the victims, they felt relieved.
On the other hand, Maromi, Tsukiko's stuffed toy is her escape to avoid criticism. Tsukiko imagines Maromi to be a living creature and Maromi encourages her to run away from criticism rather than confronting it.
The underlying theme of Paranoia Agent, depth of characters, and symbolism:
"A world, a person perceives is filtered by their own fantasies and paranoia"
From our perception, we're the heroes of our reality. The show focuses on how characters see the reality around them based on the fantasies that they have in mind. We met officer Hirokawa in episode 4. He was a corrupt officer on heavy loan and had ties with a Yakuza group. He did everything that a morally questionable man can do. He conducted robberies to save his family home and to pay his debts off. No matter what he did in real life, he always believed himself to be a tragic hero who is doing everything to save his family's home.
Detective Akari was assigned with the case of the Little Slugger. At first, he believed and said out loud that Tsukiko was making up this story because no criminal commits a crime without a motive and no matter how well he did the crime they always leave a trace. But his traditional police principles did not apply to the case of the Little Slugger. As the case became more bizarre and non-sensible, he failed to believe that his ways are old-fashioned and that his black and white views of the world don't apply everywhere.
Thus he escaped to a 2D world, literally a 2D world of the 1950s where everything is simple. Everything is designed the way he wants. A world where the bad guys were robbers and good guys were policemen who used to catch them. This episode shows the nostalgia and desperation to go back to the times that suit you. The desperation showed how hard it was for detective Akari to change his ways according to the fast-shifting modern world.
Paranoia Agent has a number of characters who use their fantasies to escape their problems. The representation is not just about these characters but society in general. In the later episodes, we see how Maromi's merchandise was gaining more and more popularity and people are getting obsessed over it which symbolized how desperate people get to avoid criticism and not face their problems.
Spoiler Alert - Who is the Little Slugger, though?
Tsukiko Sagi was never attacked by Little Slugger. She got that injury herself and so did other victims. They all hurt themselves physically to get a temporary sense of relaxation and blamed it all on an imaginary entity.
Maromi and Little Slugger are both the creation of Tsukiko Sagi's imagination. And they both got attention because they were overly popularised by the media. She created the entities because she didn't want to face her problems. Maromi and Little Slugger both gave people a false belief of relaxation for a short time but in the end, you still have to face the problem you were avoiding. Both of them offered a sense of temporary relief in different ways. At the end of the series, Tsukiko stopped lying to herself and confronted her fears and problems and thus the imaginary entity went away.
How close Paranoia Agent is to reality makes it extremely terrifying! The show has a unique approach to exploring the darkest parts of living in contemporary society. The most disturbing part of the show was episode 10 for me when people in the animation studio were working while being on the verge of physical and mental breakdowns. The reality and the routine that people are stuck in is so terrifying that people here prefer to be physically injured than to be emotionally cornered!
Check out this opening song!